Do your varicose veins look or feel worse on a hot summer’s day or after taking a long, hot, relaxing bath? From heat to other contributing factors, it is time to evaluate what harms and what helps to control those pesky and often unsightly veins.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
There are a variety of reasons why some people are more prone to varicose veins than others. Certain circumstances can predispose a person to developing these often-unsightly veins. Here are the most common reasons that varicose veins appear on primarily the lower extremities:
- Heredity poses a significant risk in developing varicosities
- Advancing age adds to the risk, with varicose veins beginning as early as 18 years old and peaking at 50-60 years old
- Gender is a major factor, as women develop varicose veins four times more often than men
- Hormone fluctuations as seen in pregnancy, menopause and with birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy weakens vein walls, which helps create varicosities
- Occupations involving prolonged standing like teachers and nurses can lead to varicose veins
- Obesity creates increased pressure on veins and can lead to bulging veins
- Improper shoes, such as consistently wearing high-heeled shoes, can contribute to varicose vein problems
- Heat causes veins to enlarge and engorge with blood, which weakens the vein walls and develops into varicose veins
Turn off the Heat!
Let us look specifically at the heat factor and how it affects varicose veins.
Why does heat negatively affect varicose veins? Heat increases vein swelling. It expands or dilates the vessels. This causes blood to pool or become entrapped in the vein, which helps create varicose veins.
If you suffer from varicose veins or want to prevent them, it is important to avoid or minimize your exposure to any of the following sources of heat:
- A hot bath in which you linger and soak
- Hot showers can also add to the symptoms, even though there is no soaking involved
- Whirlpool baths, which encourage long exposure to warm/hot water temperatures
- Hot tub use because the water temperature hovers at 99° F to 104° F
- Heated indoor floors that provide prolonged and consistently higher than average temperature exposure
- Even sitting too close to a heat source or being in an overheated room can add to the formation of varicose veins
- Hot weather adds to the development of varicosities by simply expanding the blood vessels in the body
- Directly applied heat packs negatively impact the veins in the area of application
While it is important to note that heat is not the sole factor that can cause varicose veins, it is a significant contributor to their potential development. Be aware of the factors that can impact varicose veins. Altering or avoiding some of the known influences, as minor as they might seem at the time, can potentially decrease your risk for varicose veins.